(Illustration by Greg Groesch, The Washington Times)
It is said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been playing chess while President Obama has been playing checkers, or even marbles. While it is true that Mr. Putin is playing a game of chess on the stage of history, the United States is not playing a different game. Rather, like a pawn on Russia's chessboard, Mr. Obama is just being played.
It is 2009. Mr. Putin has just given the West a preview of his plans by intervening in Georgia. Doing her very best to prove how clueless the Obama administration really is, Hillary Clinton hands Russia's experienced foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, a toy "reset" button, which she presses. Mr. Putin gets an endorsement. Democrats are so desperate to prove diplomacy is effective that Mrs. Clinton takes a lesson from Neville Chamberlain in dealing with the leader that she would later compare to Hitler. The game is on.
By the end of its first term, the Obama administration has made Russia its equal partner on the world stage. When the subject of a missile defense becomes an irritant to the relationship, Mr. Obama asks for patience by promising Mr. Putin's surrogate flexibility once he no longer has to explain himself to the American people. What he does not know is that Mr. Putin understands power — and weakness.
It is 2013. Mr. Obama has painted himself into a corner by threatening to take military action against Syria, a Russian ally, for the use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. Mr. Putin comes to his rescue by devising a plan to ensure that the United States must walk away from its own red line without acting.
Mr. Putin knows that his stratagem will drive a wedge between the United States and its allies, erode their confidence in U.S. resolve, and make it impossible for the United States to threaten the use of force credibly again. The board is now defenseless.
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- Judy Chaffee
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